It is becoming clear that the Covid-l9 crisis will lead to substantial changes in the British lifestyle.
First of all, a significant part of the workforce will be working from home on line. People have learnt from current experience that board and other meetings can be conducted quite satisfactorily on Zoom or Teams. Employees will not need to travel, at great expense in discomfort with no seats, and can live away from London and the South East, where good houses are cheaper.
The knock on effects of Zoom and Teams are also going to reduce the demand for office space in London and other major cities. Office space could be converted into residential use – so reducing the cost of residential property. Much of the massive increase in office space over the last three years may end up to being converted into accommodation.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found some surprising results from its recent surveys. The impact of lockdown on people’s lives has been revealed in official figures, showing that more than a quarter are considering changes to their relationships (divorce), job or home.
For the first time, the ONS has focused on aspects of life that are the cause of unhappiness. Big life changes after recovery from the Coronavarius are being planned by 28 per cent of adults and, of these, 42 per cent want to make a change to their work; 38 per cent are looking to move on from relationships and 35 per cent are inclined to move home. Family lawyers have already reported an increase in the number of divorce cases exacerbated by financial problems.
Researchers have also found that 40 per cent of adults feel that some parts of their lives have changed for the better. Of those who reported positive lifestyle changes, 56 per cent said they were able to spend more time with their family and close friends. The ONS also found that nearly half of those aged between 60 and 69 had experienced positive lifestyle changes compared with only 24 per cent of respondents aged over 70. Exactly half said they were enjoying a slower pace of live.
It remains to be seen how many of these intentions will be carried through, albeit that a lot of people will need to change jobs as there their previous jobs will no longer be available.
There are four related territories which are exposed to massive change for survival: the high street, travel, hospitality and culture.
The high street is still threatened by online shopping in an unfair tax regime. The Government has permitted the online shopping industry to enjoy substantial tax advantages, undercutting the high street. It pays no business rates and is maybe registered abroad, so saving on VAT and corporation tax. What is needed overall is a level tax playing field.
Travel is probably the biggest area effected by Covid-19. The total value of cancelled flights amounts to £8 billion for the last four months. Liability for this will be fought over for a long time to come, where there are now two key legal principals – in the UK “Acts of God” and, imported from Europe, “Force majeure”. The industry cannot afford to refund the £8 billion total, and it is governments that have insisted on the closure of air travel.
Restaurants, pubs and hotels have had mixed and an often interlinked experience – overall, a negative one caused by Government lockdown requirements. Some opening up is now occurring, and local authorities are encouraging and supporting the provision out outside restaurant facilities There is an economic need for restaurants..
The territory which the Government has now announced a £1.5 billion package for us the performing arts. The individual performers have had all their bookings cancelled, through to Christmas with no compensation and no future bookings. It should be remembered that the arts contributes more to Britain’s international earnings, in aggregate, than does the City of London.
The Government seems to be waking up to the importance of Britain’s musical industry. One of our friends who is an internationally recognised opera singer is trying to set up a major outdoor performance in Hyde Park, similar to the Pavarotti Concert over ten years ago. This, however, will require the Government to provide the insurance cover against the risk of Covid-l9 infection. There are three historic precedents where the Government had to put up such cover – and, ironically, made a good profit from so doing.